Inside the local Muslim community

   Being a Muslim in the United States can sometimes be difficult with all the stereotypes depicted in the media. The association of violence and terrorism with Islam drives people away.

   “A lot of times, I think, we as Muslims have taken the backseat and given, especially people that are opposed to Islam, the right to interpret the religion for us,” Rasul Abdullah, one of the elders of the Natchitoches Islamic Center, said.

   Muslims are almost fully isolated from the community. They are not given a chance to explain or show others what Islam really is. People are skeptical and believe negative stories, told by the media, about us.

   “In the clear reality, the people that know us know we are not terrorist nor do we support it,” Abdullah said.

   The Quran condemns violence and promotes good will. Quran 5:32 states, “Whoever kills a person is as though he has killed all mankind. And whoever saves a life, it is as though he had saved all mankind.”

   The news has a way of painting with a broad brush and a dominating voice. They show every little bad thing a Muslim does, but not the good.

   The Natchitoches Muslim population is small, but that does not stop us from constantly striving to make a difference. The elders at the mosque cook from home or in the mosque and drive around during their spare time, feeding the lower-class people of the community.

   I had the pleasure of cooking for Asmar Akbar, an elder at the mosques, and we were able to feed and give cold water to a total of 41 people on a hot Saturday afternoon. Akbar draws his inspiration from the prophet Joseph to help people.

   “He was so generous, whenever you go to his house he will always offer you some food. That inspired me a lot to want to feed people and be charitable,” Akbar said.

   “We definitely want more students to learn more about Islam, but it is hard to approach them,” Deontra Thomas, founder of the Muslim Student Association, a Muslim organization at Northwestern State University.

   The mosque was intentionally built close to NSU in the early 2000s.

   “We know some student would like to visit or come for prayer, so we made it easy for them,” said Akbar.

   The Muslim community’s driven purpose is to help and progress the community. We condemn violence and strive to promote our relationship with NSU and the community.

   Abdullah reminded me of a quote from the prophet Muhammad: “The best of you is the one that is most beneficial to humanity.”

   Whether you are skeptical about Islam or are unsure of what it is, the mosque is always open and welcomes visitors. Go and satisfy your curiosity and draw your own conclusion about Muslims and Islam. The mosque is located at 125 Caspari St.

Maina Ibn-Mohammed

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